Backpacking Minimalist: How to Travel with Less (Minimalist Travel)

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Here’s the truth: You do not need a lot of things.

There, I said it! The minimalist movement has been going on for years and you probably see it a lot on the internet where people start selling their stuff and fitting all their life in a backpack and, to be honest, it is a bold move because it does take a lot of emotional bravery to get rid of things you think matters to you.

When I was living in Helsinki and living a good life as a professional chef, I didn’t really own a lot of things… or so I thought. I thought I was living a rather minimalistic lifestyle back then and truthfully, comparing myself to my friends, I did own much less but it was still a lot of things! In fact, I owned so much that our nearby charity store saw me almost every day as I was donating so much stuff! So much that when I decided to live out of a suitcase and travel the world, I had the hardest time to downsize to a 15kg bag.

Minimalist travel is not really all about owning less but also the mentality of realizing the difference between wanting things to needing things. I have to be honest and say that it is not easy and it takes a lot of realization to know what do you really need in order to live your life on a daily basis.

Backpacking minimalist style is surely not for everyone nor is living with all the basic things in life.

I personally believe that a minimalistic view in life has given me the self-satisfaction and the ease to travel only with the necessary things I need both in life and as a traveling woman. I realized that carrying less stuff with me lightens not only a load of my pack but also my inner conscious is free from worry. I am contented and confident because I know that I have everything I need with me, nothing more, nothing less.

That said, my style may not be the same as yours, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a thing or two ideas in this post. My list is very basic. Thus you’ll have an overall idea of what you might need on the road! Just remember that if you’re backpacking, it is vital you think through what you put in your pack. The hardest thing I did before was to throw away or pay for shipping to send off some of the stuff I didn’t end up using. Therefore, always think through if you need that cute jumper or not.

On a crazy note, I once traveled around Europe and Asia for three months with a 35L backpack! I covered two seasons (winter and extreme heat), and I had everything I needed in that backpack including a sleeping bag, a DSLR, and a cute pair of dresses. Looking back, that was extreme minimalism, and I would certainly do it again.

Here’s my backpacking minimalist packing list for those who want to start their journey with less stuff!

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Backpacking Minimalist: How to Travel with Less (Minimalist Travel)

Minimalist packing list overview

Here’s a backpacking minimalist packing list where I detail everything in bullet points before we proceed on why you need each item. The idea here is to pack enough for a week and not more but can be less. If you’re on a budget and you’re staying mostly in hostels, you can always wash your clothes on the sink if you’re starting to run out of clothes!

The uncategorized essentials:

  • A good backpack or luggage
  • Packing Cubes
  • A luggage padlock
  • A shoe bag
  • A microfiber quick dry towel
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Cutleries
  • Lunch/container box (to avoid plastics when you take home some food!)
  • Stainless steel straw

Clothing essentials:

  • 2x basic shirt
  • 2x sleeveless tank top
  • 1x long sleeve shirt
  • 1x sports grade shirt/top (for quick dry purposes!)
  • 1x fleece jacket
  • 1x leggings
  • 1x warm pants (jeans, etc.)
  • 1x gym/yoga pants (good for outdoor activities, going to gym, hiking, etc.)
  • 2x shorts (multipurpose: can be for sleeping, lounging, or daily wear)
  • 1x compressable warm outer jacket with a windproof outer layer
  • 7 pair of undies
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1x gym bra
  • 2x normal bra
  • Optional: your favorite accessories

Shoes:

  • 1 pair of flipflops
  • 1 pair of comfortable and durable trainers
  • 1 pair of nice shoes (could be anything!)

Toiletry essentials:

  • A toiletry bag
  • Your favorite facial wash
  • Face, body, and hair oil (I like argan or coconut oil)
  • All-in-one liquid soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Travel size razor
  • Eyebrow tweezer
  • Menstrual cup
  • Q tips
  • Travel size perfume of your choice

Makeup (optional):

  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Concealer
  • Lip and cheek stain
  • Mascara
  • Eyelash curler
  • Red lipstick

 

Minimalist travel packing: Why do I need these stuff?

Some of the basic things you might or might not need but I need

Minimalist carry on backpack (or any good backpacks, really!)

Having a good backpack is extremely crucial therefore you do need to take the time to find the right one for you! Backpacks can be uncomfortable if they are not of good quality and are not designed for your body type (i.e I’m a woman, therefore, I should choose a pack designed for a woman, etc.).

I’ve owned a 35L backpack from a random brand before and even though I survived three months with it, I had so much back pain after a few hours of carrying it and this is why I am recommending Osprey Farpoint 40 or 55 as they have two different sizes suitable for either gender. Also, it makes an amazing minimalist carry on as the backpack passes all airline onboard bag size!

Minimalist travel luggage

Since this post was published a couple of years ago, this also means my traveling style has evolved since then and I totally recommend going for the backpacks if that’s what your heart desire! That said, I had to make a tough choice last year if I will go for a backpack for this long-term travel trip or should I get luggage – I got the latter.

This does not mean my backpacking days are over, I could have still gone for the backpack on this trip but because the gears I use in order to run this blog is already a staggering 5kg on their own (laptop, two cameras, and the shenanigans that go with them) and I will be based mostly here in Asia long-term, I just thought that it would be easier to take the luggage instead.

Also, if you’re not familiar with the carry-on rules with the budget airlines in Asia, most of them only allow 7kgs of total weight! If I would have gone for the carry-on backpack, I’ll be left with 2kgs of space for my other belongings. I know I could check-in the backpack, too, but the idea didn’t really sound favorable at the time I was deciding so I’m stuck with my bright pink American Tourister medium sized luggage for a long time.

I’m truly fine with it, I actually like it a lot since you can’t fill it up too much and I think it is cute. I’ll most likely change back to Osprey at one point when I start my route around lesser-known countries and places where roads are not the best for rolling luggage and accessible easier by foot.

Packing Cubes

I highly recommend getting packing cubes if you go on the backpack route! Not only it saves space but it keeps your belongings organize and neat. I can’t travel without my packing cubes because it gives my luggage a better look inside and if I want to find something, I’ll find it even in the dark. So, if you like to be neat and organize – get packing cube! If you’re not, still get packing cubes.

Padlock

If you’re traveling on a budget like me and ends up in hostel dormitories because you can’t afford a nice hotel room then you’ll need a padlock because not all hostels provide one for the lockers. Also, it doubles up as extra protection for your backpack if you take it as a carry-on inside airplanes. No one can touch your precious belongings!

Shoe bag

Most people use plastic to put their dirty shoes when they shove it in their backpack or luggage and that is totally fine if you are going to reuse it and dispose correctly (I meant the plastic bag, not your shoes!), but I’m personally on the road of going plastic free and the idea of using something I’ll eventually throw away to be part of one of the biggest problems on earth doesn’t sound so eco-friendly. This is why I bought a couple of shoe bags to keep my clean belongings away from my dirty shoes and I haven’t shoved one pair of shoe in a plastic bag ever again.

Of course, this is totally optional and absolutely personal, you don’t need to get it if you don’t need it since this is minimalist travel packing list after all!

Microfibre Travel Towel

Again, not all hostels provide towels and most of them even charge for it. You do not need to bring one but I highly suggest that you do because, well, you never know if the hostel will have one for you! There are many lightweight travel towels nowadays that packs like a handkerchief so it really won’t take so much space either.

Reusable water bottle

This is not going to be another lecture about plastic but I’m just going to say how having one is a lifesaver! I use mine on a daily basis and I bring it with me everywhere. Not only it keeps my plastic use down but I can always refill it at the hostel, refilling centers, restaurants, coffee shops, and etc. which saves a lot of money. I’m currently in Asia and water cost almost next to nothing but in some places they do and it may be only less than a euro per bottle but if I will drink 3.5L of water a day, the cost will add up eventually. Plus, I contribute to plastic waste. Not a lecture, just saying!

Reusable cutleries

You don’t really need to buy these. Just take one spoon, one fork, and maybe a knife from your Mom’s cabinet and you’re golden. She probably won’t even notice either! I do have a travel size cutlery set with me which I bought in Malaysia and you’re probably wondering, why do you need it? You really don’t. However, if you’re like me who likes to eat street food and enjoys eating in general then you probably know that a lot of these cheap places will give you plastic cutleries and for that reason, I have one set of cutleries with me. Contribute to the good cause y’all! Again, not a lecture.

Container box

I won’t write a long text on this one because again, you might not need this but for the same reason I wrote under “cutleries”, you might want to bring one if you like take-outs.

Stainless steel straw

Read the two points above. For reason, one thing I’ve noticed here in Asia is the fact that they love using plastic in general and straws are one of the verdicts.

Ultra minimalist travel wardrobe

Basic shirt (2)

You simply can never go wrong with plain and basic shirts! They are just simply the best things to have in your minimalist travel pack as they go with everything.

Sleeveless tank top (2)

Good for hot days and as well for layering underneath when it starts to get cold!

Sports grade quick-dry shirt/top (2)

Perfect for long walks, hikes, and going to the gym as they dry quickly and often have this type of material that lets your skin breath when it gets too hot. Nowadays they sell gym shirts that are flowy and pretty so they don’t shout “I’m heading to the gym!” so you can wear them as outwear, too.

Long sleeve shirt (1)

If it starts to be cold, it is good to have one nice long sleeve shirt to keep you warm and are perfect for layering or for the plane.

Zip up lightweight fleece jacket (1)

I don’t know if it is just because I have lived in Finland for so long that a fleece jacket is a staple in my wardrobe or it just because I’m too afraid of getting cold. Either way, it is good to have a good fleece jacket for when it gets cold and as well to wear in the plane.

Leggings (1)

Perfect for lounging around, general use, or whenever you feel like it is a bit cold that you need something that is not too warm but breathable.

Pants/Jeans (1)

You need to have at least one pair of nice pants or jeans for when it gets cold or to use when traveling.

Gym/yoga pants (1)

Perfect for hiking, long walks, and for its own purpose – going to the gym or yoga!

Shorts (2)

Good for many purposes and I use mine for sleeping and for daily use.

Lightweight compressible down jacket with a windproof and waterproof outer layer (1)

You shouldn’t let the weather to hinder you from traveling to places and having a good lightweight down jacket and a windproof and waterproof outer shell does not exactly take so much space and won’t weight more than 800g (usually). Plus, they double up as a pillow when you need one!

Underwears (7)

Self-explanatory.

Socks (3)

Self-explanatory.

Gym bra (1)

Good for hikes, going to the gym or when you feel like you need them to have a little bit of freedom.

Normal bra (2)

Self-explanatory.

Sarong (1)

Absolutely mandatory! Sarongs are multi-purpose and I’ve used mine as a beach towel, beach coverup, scarf, and many more. Plus, they aren’t so expensive nor heavy so you should be fine having one.

Optional: your favorite accessories

I personally don’t wear nor bring any but if there are some accessories you like to have, why not bring them!

Shoes:

Flipflops (1)

Good for general walking around and when you’re in hostels.

Comfortable and durable trainers

Perfect for walking, hiking, and going to the gym.

Nice shoes (1)

It is good to have one nice shoe which you can use if you plan to go to a bit nicer and posh places. I have a nice looking slipper that goes with everything I own.

Toiletry essentials:

Toiletry bag

A must for the organizing freaks like me. I wrote an extensive guide about toiletry bags, read it here.

Facial Wash

I personally use BodyShop facial wash and I think it is good enough to clean away all the gunk from the pollution I get her ein Asia.

All-in-one liquid soap

Shampoo bar

Face, body, and hair oil (I like argan or coconut oil)

Sunscreen

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

Deodorant

Travel size razor

Eyebrow tweezer

Menstrual cup

Q tips

Travel size perfume of your choice

Makeup (optional):

I personally own these: eyebrow pencil, a concealer, cheek and lip tint, a mascara, an eyelash curler, and a red lipstick. These has been my make up staple since forever and yes, I do wear them everyday and thats because I feel awesome whenever I have some on. But of course, you can bring as little or more as you desire!

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